What To Do In Rome | A Birthday Visit

November 18, 2017

Looking back, I would never have imagined that on my 18th birthday I would be in Rome. Two years ago I had never been abroad and to be honest the prospect daunted me. That's why this birthday trip was so memorable.

Let me take you back around seven months ago. It was the year where everyone was turning 18 and throwing humongous parties to commemorate this milestone.

So, when my mum approached me asking how I wanted to celebrate. I had other ideas. After recently catching the travel bug (very infectious you know?!) I had one thing on my mind. I wanted to go abroad.

After plenty of research, my family and I decided on Rome, the capital of Italy.

Famed for its magnificent culture and delicious food, the city suited every member of my family down to a tee.

Roll onto the end of August and it was time for my birthday trip. Before we went, I had extensively planned and structured an itinerary of all the places I wanted to visit, making sure I covered every hotspot in Rome.

We stayed at Hotel Degli Artisti, a four-star hotel tucked off the main street leading to the Trevi Fountain. On arrival, my family and I were upgraded to a bigger room, starting the trip off nicely.

Rome Travel Tip: 
Do not drink from the minibar, we made this mistake after a long taxi ride and ending up paying the very dear price for it. Head to a supermarket away from the tourist trap where you can pick up 1 Litre bottles of water for €1 and bottles of beer for €2. 
Here are some of my major highlights and favourite things to do in Rome from our five-day trip:

1. St Peter's Basilica 

Hands down, the best attraction of the whole trip. St Peter's Basilica is an iconic symbol of Christianity and is located in Vatican City. 

It was the largest church ever built and is believed to be the burial place of Saint Peter. 

The striking feature was the sheer opulence of the architecture, for people to have built the church in the first place they must have had an unquestionable faith in the belief of the Christian God. 

If you come to the Basilica, you must climb the dome. Whilst, this would be daunting for those that are claustrophobic or scared of heights, once you are at the top, you will be greeted with a stunning cityscape. If I can go up the steps in 36 degrees Celsius, you can too. 

Top Tip: 
Keep an eye out on the Pope's schedule; when the Pope is in Rome for the sunday angelus he will address the crowd in St Peter's square.  
View from the dome

2. Colosseum 

Built between 70AD and 80AD, this amphitheatre was the biggest ever built by the Roman Empire. 

Seeing the Colosseum was a rather uncanny moment. I had studied it in great detail when I was at high school and used it twice as a central theme for English and Film coursework, visiting the theatre didn't feel like reality and still doesn't.

When I was on the second floor looking down at the arena I could imagine the gladiator fights that I had written so vividly about four years ago - in a way it was like seeing my creations come to life! 

Colosseum Tourist Warning:
On arrival to the Colosseum, many 'fast track ticket sellers' approached us saying they could help with skipping the queues if we payed an extra €30 each. DO NOT DO THIS. Book online prior to coming, using only the official website and when you get the Colosseum head to the outdoor office booths. There staff will inform you of when the best time to see the Colosseum is that day. 

3. Vatican Museums 

A collation of Christian and art museums located in you guessed it, Vatican City. 

The museums exhibit the abundant collection Popes amassed throughout the centuries. 

According to statistics online, the museums hold around 70,000 pieces of work to which 20,000 are on display. 

Within the Vatican Museums is the famous Sistine Chapel which serves as a place of papel activity. 

The grandeur of the artwork displayed and the architecture of the museums act as an almost earthly representation of religious belief. 

If you visit, ponder about the wealth of the museums in comparison with the poverty of the world past and present... it creates an interesting debate.

4. Trevi Fountain 

The first time I saw the Trevi Fountain was when I watched La Dolce Vita to which Marcello and Sylvia wade into the fountain. 

With the heat and humidity, I would have taken any chance to jump right in, but even touching the water is prohibited. 

The advice I got from other travellers was that the Trevi Fountain was a must-see, especially at nighttime. I can now report that they weren't wrong. 

Lit with ambient white lighting, the water looks velvety appearing smooth and soft. 

Take a look for yourself... 

5. Roman Forum and Palatine Hill 

I've grouped these two together because of their location. The Roman Forum is made up of the ruins of ancient government buildings including the unmissable monument; the Temple of Saturn. 

Palentine Hill stands above the Roman Forum and is one of the seven hills of Rome. Classed as one of the most ancient parts of the city, the hill stands 70 metres in height.

Not all parts of the Palatine are available for visitors to see, however, you can still visit the Imperial Palaces, the Farnese Gardens and the House of Livia. 

Top Tip: 
Go with a tour guide. Unfortunately, the Roman Forum lacks any sort of English translations explaining the site and when it does often the information boards are longwinded and confusing. Also, take plenty of water if travelling in the summer, Palatine Hill can be a tough walk. 

6. Other Churches 

Normally, I like to finish on five, but I could not miss this highlight out. Rome quintessentially is a city that embodies Christianity. To get a good grasp of how important religion was and still is in the city, do not just visit the tourist hotspots. My two favourite churches (besides St Peter's) were The Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola at Campus Martius and Sant'Agnese in Agone. Both are extremely beautiful and fascinating.

There are still so many more attractions I could talk about such as the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and Galleria Borghese, but these are my top six picks of the whole trip.

Rome was such an incredible experience and one that I can guarantee I will not forget - how many people can say they were stood in the Colosseum on their 18th birthday?!

I also posted two videos on my YouTube channel about this trip: 

Have you ever been to Rome? 

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